Friday, November 11, 2011

The Legend of JoePa Has Yet To Be Determined

Statue Of Joe PaternoImage by audreyjm529 via FlickrThe Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State is certainly a polarizing topic. Everyone seems to be "on this side" or "on that side" on virtually every topic discussed. Should Mike McQueary be allowed to coach or even retain his job or is he one of the worst offenders? Are the students who rioted just a couple of idiots fueled by anger or are they standing up for the right to due process? Did the college cover up the whole sordid tale or is this really only about one perverted creep?

He must stand on the world stage and explain everything.

It should be noted that any case, let alone one as complex as this, is never as simple as black and white. However, when emotions run high and the demand for answers is seemingly not being met, it isn't difficult to comprehend why the masses start to pick side. Right or wrong, this is what happens when something of this magnitude occurs. And on it plays.

The loudest of disagreements is the most obvious and an understandably sensitive one...
Joe Paterno and his storied legend.

The support for Paterno is hardly surprising. By virtually all accounts he has done more for Penn State then anyone could begin to list in detail. It is well known about the "Grand Experiment" where he demanded academic excellence from his athletes, particularly at a time when the word "student-athlete" was becoming an oxymoron. There are innumerous stories of Paterno shaping the lives of young men and women and helping to build them into great people. The fact that the campus library, not an athletic building, is named for him speaks volumes to what he has done to further the lives and minds of students at Penn State. Paterno taught honor and integrity.

But not all are convinced that Paterno practiced what he preached...

The anti-JoePa camp generally believes that Paterno had to know, or at least, had to suspect that a monster was amongst them. If you believe the grand jury testimony, then Paterno knew at the very least that "disturbing" and "inappropriate" actions took place between Sandusky and Victim #2 in 2002. McQueary had told him and did so in a manner where he was "visibly upset" as noted by Paterno. Many believe that if Paterno and McQueary had simply called the police, nearly ten years of torture could have been averted.

 ...the chance to finally do right by these victims is right there in front of him.

The people who called for Paterno's departure still want answers. They want to know what and when Paterno knew. They want to know what Paterno was thinking when he saw Sandusky with young boys consistently in the years following the initial disclosure to Paterno. Did Paterno know before 2002? Was the allegations of Victim #4 and the 1999 Alamo Bowl the real reason that Sandusky left coaching in an attempt to hide or shield Penn State from the possible backlash from going public with it?

The answers to these questions are what will define Joe Paterno. To be more specific, the way he answers these questions are what will define Joe Paterno.

If his messages on honor and integrity mean anything to him, then he will be front and center at the Sandusky trial. He must stand on the world stage and explain everything. He can't focus on how damning this will be to his image. He cant be worried about his finances and the inevitable civil suits that could arise. He need only concern himself with one thing... living up to what he taught.

For every story we hear about Paterno molding and preparing a young life for greatness, there is an actual person behind each tale. Surely those people are focused on Paterno's upcoming actions. If they continued on the path we so often hear about Paterno leading them down, then they expect him to do the right thing, just as he taught them to do.

Paterno may never recover his image entirely. No matter what happens now, it will be extremely tough to fully restore his name. But the chance to redeem something, the chance to try to make the right decisions moving forward, the chance to finally do right by these victims is right there in front of him. What Paterno does with it will undoubtedly play a heavy role in determining what type of man Paterno really is.

Joe Pateno's legend rests on what he does from this point on.
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